Tommy Eliassen has always been interested in night and long exposure photography. He is based in Mo i Rana, Norway, where he’s lucky enough to enjoy frequent sightings of the Northern Lights. In this blog post, we ask Tommy about his experience and the techniques he uses to photograph the night sky.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with photography?
Sure, my name is Tommy Eliassen, I’m 35 and I live in Mo i Rana, in Norway, a few kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. It was thanks to a reflex camera, a Nikon F601, that I got into photography back in 1999. Initially, I mainly used it to take photos of my walks in the mountains and the landscapes in my area. I then started getting interested in night landscapes and this passion has never left me!
Your night sky images are spectacular. Could you tell us where and when were they taken?
Most of my photos were taken in the north of Norway, where I live. The best time of year to capture this kind of image is between September and April, when the days are shorter. Thanks to our geographic location, we are able to see incredible phenomena such as the Northern Lights, and conditions are excellent since there is no urban light pollution to obstruct our view of the sky. You just need to put up with the freezing cold for a while.
What techniques do you use to achieve these results?
First of all, there’s a lot of planning involved. I use sites and software such as Google Earth, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, Stellarium or Spaceweather.com to plan the times and locations of my shoots. For a moonless night, the settings I typically use are ISO 2000 (roughly), an aperture of f/2.8 and a shutter speed of around 30 seconds.
I often use the Magic Cloth technique where you put a filter over the lens and slowly remove it during exposure.
For post production I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, but try to spend as little time as possible on this stage: minor adjustments to the white balance, tone curve and levels, and sometimes image sharpening and noise reduction.
Lastly, I use Adobe Photoshop to create panoramas.
What equipment do you use?
I’m currently using a Nikon D800, a Nikon D700, a 14-24mm f/2.8G wide angle lens, a 50mm f/1.4 lens and a Nikon MC-36 remote cord.